Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.Ch. 2. The generosity of Boaz: his first meeting with Ruth
1. a kinsman] Strictly the word does not mean more than familiar friend 2 Kings 10:11, Proverbs 7:4.
a mighty man of wealth] a wealthy man, 1 Samuel 9:1, 2 Kings 15:20; sometimes the phrase means a valiant man (marg.) Jdg 6:12; Jdg 11:1; in Ruth 3:11 the word for wealth has a moral sense.
Boaz] Cf. 1 Kings 7:21. The derivation of the name is uncertain: possibly, ‘in him is strength’ (for Ruth). More probably the name is traditional, and a contraction of Ba‘al-‘az i.e. ‘B. is strong’; cf. in Phoenician Bomilcar for Ba‘al-melḳarth, Salambo for Ṣalm-ba‘al etc.
And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.2. Permission to glean in the harvest field was allowed to the poor, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow; naturally it depended on the goodwill of the owner; see Deuteronomy 24:19, Leviticus 19:9 f., Leviticus 23:22.
And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.3. her hap … Boaz] The word for hap occurs in 1 Samuel 6:9 (‘a chance’), 1 Samuel 20:26. Throughout the story the writer intends us to share his strong belief in Providence, over-ruling unpremeditated actions and words (cf. Ruth 2:12; Ruth 2:19 f.), and rewarding those who trust it (Ruth 3:4; Ruth 3:9; Ruth 3:11, Ruth 4:6; Ruth 4:14). ‘The cosmos is a fighter for the righteous,’ says the Jewish sage, Wis 16:17
And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.4. The Lord be with you] Cf. Jdg 6:12, Psalm 129:8. A religious spirit governs the relations between employer and employed on this estate.
Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this?
And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab:
And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house.7. save that she tarried a little in the house] lit. ‘her dwelling in the house is (but) short’: not the house of Boaz, which is out of the question; possibly her own house, in which case the meaning will be ‘she has but recently come to live here.’ It is doubtful, however, whether the words can bear this sense; the text is probably corrupt. The LXX. reads ‘and she hath not rested in the field (even) a little time’; the Vulg., ‘and not even for a moment hath she returned to the house.’ Something can be said for each of these emendations, but neither is quite satisfactory.
Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens:
Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn.9. after them] i.e. the maidens Ruth 2:8, who followed the reapers and did the binding.
Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?10. take knowledge of me] with kindly purpose, Ruth 2:19, Psalm 142:4. A stranger had no right or claims on protection in a foreign land. The Hebr. has a subtle play on the two words take knowledge of me and stranger; the roots are distinct, but they sound alike.
And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.11. Ruth’s uncommon devotion, which induced her to leave her native land and the natural guardians of her widowhood, is one of the main features of the story.
The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.12. the Lord recompense] Cf. Ruth 1:8.
under whose wings … refuge] This beautiful idea is repeated in Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:2; Psalm 91:4; the figure is that of an eagle, Deuteronomy 32:11. May the God of Israel take care of the homeless stranger from a heathen country! The prayer was answered through the agency of him who uttered it—a fine touch, as Bertholet points out.
Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens.13. comforted … spoken kindly unto] The same words in Isaiah 40:1-2. See on Jdg 19:3.
though I be not] As a stranger Ruth is not like one of his handmaidens; she has no right to expect such friendly treatment.
And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left.14. in the vinegar] i.e. sour wine. It is said to be still used in Palestine by the harvesters as relish with bread.
parched corn] i.e. grain taken from the newly reaped corn and roasted in a pan, and eaten with bread or as a substitute for bread.
And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:
And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.16. the bundles] Only here; in Assyr. the root (ṣabâtu) means ‘to grasp’; in the Mishnah and Jewish Aram., ‘to bind.’
So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.17. she beat out] Cf. Jdg 6:11.
an ephah] Approximately equivalent to our bushel.
And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed.18. her mother in law saw] A slight change of pronunciation gives a more expressive sense: she shewed her mother in law.
And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz.19. blessed be he] Naomi invokes a blessing on the benefactor before she knows who he is; the author delights in such dramatic fitness, cf. Ruth 2:12, Ruth 3:11.
And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.20. one of our near kinsmen] See marg. and note on Ruth 3:9. Here the word go’el occurs for the first time in the story.
And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.
And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.22. in any other field] In the field of a less pious man than Boaz a poor maiden might come to mischief; cf. Ruth 2:9.
So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.23. wheat harvest] followed two or three weeks later.
she dwelt with] Or, with a slight change, she returned unto; so Vulg.